On July 10, 2018, both the Roanoke Times and WSLS10 reported that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has given EQT Corp. in Pittsburgh, builder of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a nine-page notice of environmental violations punishable by fines and repair mandates. The notice says MVP failed to install and maintain erosion-control devices has fouled 8,800 feet of streams in six locations.
Read the full Notice of Violation.
According to the Roanoke Times, “The Virginia notice is not a finding of guilt or liability but a set of allegations over which the company and regulators are to negotiate and reach agreement. In Virginia, fines for environmental violations of the type alleged can reach $32,000 per day. ‘We are holding MVP accountable and we expect full resolution of the issues,’ DEQ spokeswoman Ann Regn said Tuesday. …. The unexpectedly large rainfall won’t qualify as an excuse for not keeping sediment under control, said Regn, who added that the company is responsible for cleanup.”
The company has 10 days to respond – BUT they are allowed to keep working during the 10 days.
The Dominion Pipeline Monitoring Coalition has posted links to the Virginia Conservation Network’s collection of comments to the State Water Control Board, along with an initial summary of comments to which the SWCB must respond.
From the DPMC Web page (many thanks to DPMC for their fine summary!):
The Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) has collected comments submitted in response to the State Water Control Board’s request for public input concerning the Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 and where it falls short in upholding state water quality standards and where stream-by-stream reviews are needed for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. VCN has established a webpage to provide access to these comments: http://www.vcnva.org/pipeline-comments/.
An extensive review and summary of comments will be prepared and made available to the public and the Water Control Board. A initial summary of assembled comments follows. Additional comments can be shared with David Sligh, DPMC Regulatory System Investigator, at email@example.com.
Initial Summary of Comments: NWP12 is Not Sufficient to Protect Virginia Streams
The Army Corps of Engineers’ Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP12) is insufficient to meet Virginia’s water quality standards. This permit is for “activities that have no more than minimal individual and cumulative adverse environmental effects.” The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) and the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) clearly do not meet this description. Consider the following synopsis from a selection of comments to the State Water Control Board.
- Damage to streams is already being caused by construction activities: mudslides and sediment discharges from MVP have inundated Virginia streams and covered roads and neighboring properties; NWP12 is currently allowing damage to streams in South Carolina from a Dominion Energy project; West Virginia regulators have already issued four Notices of Violation for serious erosion problems and stream impacts from MVP. SELC and Appalachian Mountain Advocates comments discuss the current on-the-ground situation in detail.
- Mitigation measures as planned are inadequate to protect water quality: plans from developers are generalized and site-specific analyses are inadequate; many designs currently exceed engineering specifications; plans fail to consider combined impacts from upland activities and stream crossings. Sierra Club’s comments describe specific inadequate engineering evaluations and designs in detail.
- NWP12 ignores cumulative effects of multiple crossings: the permit looks at individual crossings in isolation and ignores the cumulative effects of multiple crossings on the same stream or small watershed. Wild Va/DPMC comments identify and describe potential individual and combined impacts from numerous sites within four “clusters” of crossings.
- DEQ presented incomplete and inaccurate information to the public: at least 81 crossings proposed by ACP and many for MVP are omitted from tables provide by DEQ (which were to provide the bases for comments to the SWCB); the tables also mischaracterize waterbody features. Crossings not identified or accurately described cannot have been adequately reviewed by the Corps or DEQ.
- When violations occur at specific crossings, as highlighted by the VA Environmental Justice Collaborative, the impacts disproportionately impact low-income and/or minority communities.
- The SWCB cannot defer to other agencies to protect our waters: the Corps admits it does not assess whether projects can meet state standards and that recreational uses may be impaired or eliminated. Anti-degradation analyses required by state regulations were not conducted by the Corps or DEQ. Wild Va/DPMC comments describe numerous high quality waters where state standards cannot be met and Virginia’s Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has already granted variances to time of year restrictions that are crucial to protect endangered species and sensitive trout streams.
The Water Board must use its authority to protect VA’s streams, specifically:
- Require individual stream crossing reviews for the most sensitive streams and watersheds
- Insist on complete and accurate information from the developers on the proposed designs, mitigation measures, and disallow variances that threaten water quality
- Conduct a 30-day comment period on the DEQ draft individual permits
- Suspend all activity until these reviews are complete
Based on soil erosion and sediment controls issues identified during inspections and on complaint inspections by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (with most complaints having been filed by private citizens in the absence of active DEQ inspections), Mountain Valley Pipeline agreed to temporarily suspend work on June 29, 2018. Work was to resume only after MVP received approval by DEQ.
Now, just two working days later, in the late afternoon on July 3, 2018 (clearly aiming for minimal public attention the day before a holiday), the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality released two of three areas for continued construction.
The statement posted on the DEQ Web page says, “Three areas of the Mountain Valley Pipeline project have been evaluated. After completion of DEQ inspections to ensure proper soil erosion and sediment controls are implemented, on July 3, 2018, two have been released to work. DEQ inspectors will continue to be on site to monitor and review pipeline construction throughout the project. The public is welcome to email complaints, submit pollution reports on the DEQ website, or call (804) 698-4003. Complaints and concerns will be investigated as DEQ receives them. A summary of complaint investigations and site inspections is available.”
On June 22, 2018, Appalachian Mountain Advocates requested that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suspend and revoke the permit the agency issued for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in February under the Nationwide Permit 12 program because of the inability of the applicant to comply with West Virginia requirements that limit stream crossings construction for a duration of 72 hours. The request was made on behalf of five ABRA members: the Sierra Club, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Appalachian Voices and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. A copy of the Appalmad letter to the Army Corps is available here.
The first six-pages of the 265-page document spell out the basic reasoning for the request.
The request to the Army Corps follows a decision on June 21, 2018, by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to grant a stay of the same permit (under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act) for the Mountain Valley Pipeline for similar reasons. See here for our post on that court decision.
At their meeting on June 21, 2018, the Nelson County Service Authority Board voted 2-2 on the question of setting a rate for Dominion to purchase 40,000 gallons of water per day from Lake Monocan for ACP construction, to be used primarily for the proposed HDD drilling at Reeds Gap. (George Miller, Executive Director of the Service Authority, stated that they cannot provide water for testing.)
There are normally 5 members of the Board, one from each district, but Russell Otis resigned last week and thus did not attend. Tommy Harvey and Robert McSwain voted against setting a rate for Dominion, Gary Sherwood and David Hight voted in favor of setting a rate. Since there was a tie vote, the matter will be discussed again at the July meeting, at which time the composition of the Board will have changed, with Justin Shimp, Ernie Reed, and Jesse Rutheford replacing Harvey, Otis, and McSwain.
According to the News & Advance, “with the contract, which could result in $3.5 million for the authority over two years, yet to be finalized, ACP indicated after the meeting it also is exploring other options for the water it needs for construction. ‘We’ll continue working with the service authority in the hopes of reaching an agreement,’ said Aaron Ruby, spokesman for leading ACP partner Dominion Energy, ‘but at this time we’re moving forward with our alternative solution to meet the project’s water needs.’ That alternative would be to truck in water each day for use in the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) process that would bore a path for the pipeline under the Blue Ridge Parkway from Nelson County into Augusta County. HDD construction is planned to start this summer, with activity focused near Beech Grove Road and along the border with Augusta County. The trucking alternative would mean increased traffic in the Wintergreen area to at least 10 daily trips by trucks to and from the site.”
On June 18, 2018, the Roanoke Times reported that 2 Pipeline Projects Draw More than 13,000 Public Comments. The comments were submitted to the State Water Control Board (SWCB) to give input on how the Mountain Valley and the Atlantic Coast Pipelines would impact Virginia’s water bodies. The SWCB received approximately 7,100 emails on the ACP and 2,600 emails on the MVP. Another 3,500 letters, reports, and other paper records were submitted, but as of the article’s press time it was unclear how many were related to each pipeline.
Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance (ABRA) has posted on their Web page an overview of copies of comments they received, click here to access.
Ann Regn, spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, said that comments must be reviewed by DEQ staff members in order to present the information to the SWCB. The SWCB is currently scheduled to meet on August 21, 2018, but there are requests for it to meet sooner, particularly as the MVP has already caused environmental damage and even more is expected as construction continues. Many individuals and organizations are calling for a halt to all construction on both the ACP and the MVP while the over 13,000 comments are carefully considered by the SWCB. Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, held a news conference on June 18 to push for a state-ordered stop to construction while damage is occurring.